JAPANESE OLYMPIC GYMNASTICS
team gold medalists in 2004 Japan was the dominant gymnastics in the 1960s and 70s, even better than powerful Eastern block teams like the Soviet Union. During these years, the Japanese men were famous for doing moves that no one else could do like one-arm giants on the high bar. As of 2004, Japan had won 28 gold medals in gymnastics, the most of any sport, even judo. At the 1960 Olympics in Rome all four of the gold medals won by Japan were in men's gymnastics. Takashi Ono won three gold medals that year. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan won five gold medals in men’s gymnastics and Yushio Endo won three gold medals.
Lisa Katayama wrote in the New York Times: “The Olympics, and gymnastics in particular, played an important role in the evolution of postwar Japan. In 1961, the Japanese government passed the Sports Promotion Law to prepare the country for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo and advance “the development of a bright and high-quality lifestyle for citizens.” Japan became the “kingdom of gymnastics” when its men won five consecutive team golds in the Olympics and five consecutive world championships between 1960 and 1978. [Source: Lisa Katayama, New York Times, July 20, 2012]
“Competitive gymnastics suits the Japanese because of its unique importance of repetitive drills that require strong fundamentals,” Tsunekazu Takeda, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, says. “Gymnastics has long been established as part of the standard physical-education classes. Almost all students one way or another have experienced horizontal-bar and mat-related exercises.” But, Daggett says, “they lost their way a little bit, and they were not like they were in the “60s or “70s or they are now---that’s the ebb and flow of the athletic world.” Now that flow is back, and Uchimura is on his way to becoming a pop-culture icon. [Ibid]
The men’s Olympic artistic gymnastics team won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic competitions through the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and since then the team has won a gold medal in Athens and a silver medal in Beijing. At the Beijing Games, Japanese gymnast Uchimura Kohei won a silver medal in the men’s all-around artistic gymnastics individual event. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]
At Mexico City in 1968 the Japanese men’s gymnastics team won six gold medals. At Munich in 1972, they won five gold medals. At Montreal in 1976 and Los Angeles in 1980 they won three gold medals in each Olympic but didn’t win after that until 2004.
Two nations have won team Olympic gold medals in men`s gymnastics five times: Japan (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976) and the Soviet Union (1952, 1956, 1980, 1988 and 1992). In each of Japan's victories it just edged out the Soviet team.
Links in this Website: SPORTS IN JAPAN (Click Sports, Recreation, Pets ) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; OLYMPICS AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE OLYMPIC ATHLETES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE MARATHON RUNNERS AND TRACK ATHLETES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE OLYMPIC SWIMMERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE OLYMPIC GYMNASTS AND WRESTLERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JUDO, JAPAN AND THE OLYMPICS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; WINTER OLYMPICS AND JAPANESE ATHLETES Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE FIGURE SKATERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; BOXING AND PRO WRESTLING IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ;
Good Websites and Sources: Wikipedia article on Japan at the Olympics Wikipedia ; Medal Winners in Olympics.org olympic.org/en ; Japanese Olympic Committee joc.or.jp/english ; Essay on Japan’s Rebirth at the 1964 Olympics aboutjapan.japansociety.org ; Database on Olympic Athletes databaseolympics.com
Famous Japanese Olympic Gymnasts
Among the greatest individual Olympic gymnasts of all time are Sawao Kato and Akinori Nakayama. Kato won three gold medals in 1968, three in 1972 and two in 1976. Nakayama won four gold medals in 1968 and two in 1972. Kato won 12 Olympic medals---8 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze---placing him at No. 12 on the all time medals list and 8th on the all time gold medal list
One of the most famous gymnastics stunt, the "moon," was invented by Mitsuo Tsukahara who used it to win a gold medal on the horizontal bar in the 1972 Olympics in Munich with a 9.9 score. The Tsukahara, also invented by Tsukahara, is a vaulting jump that is still done today that involves doing a cartwheel on the horse, followed by a turn and a backward somersault. This move revolutionized gymnastics. Tsukahara won a total of five gold medals and was regarded as the engine of the great Japanese gymnastics teams in the 1960s and 70s.
Kenji Gushiken won a gold medal in the individual all-around in men’s gymnastics at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. He was the coach of the 2008 gymnastic team in 2008.
Japanese Gymnast With a Broken Leg
At the Olympics in Montreal in 1972, Shun Fujimoto severally broke his knee during the floor exercise during the men’s team gymnastics competition. Even though the pain was excruciating he didn't want to let his team mates down so he continued competing.
Fujimoto had two events left. In the pommel horses he amazingly was able to swing his injured leg around and scored a 9.5 out of 10. Next was the rings, which finished with a dismount from eight feet of the floor. Fujimoto nailed his routine and finished with a flawlessly executed triple-somersault dismount.
When Fujimoto's feet hit the ground the pain sliced through him like a knife. He raised his arms and stood straight in a perfect finished, long enough to satisfy the judges, before collapsing. He was given a 9.7 the highest score ever recorded on the rings. The performances gave the Japanese team the gold medal over Russia by four tenths of a point in one of the closest team competition ever.
Japanese Gymnastics at the Olympics in 2004 and 2008
Japanese men won the gymnastic team a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It was the first gymnastics gold medal in 28 years. Hiroyuki Tomita won a silver medal in the parallel bars and Isao Yoneda won a bronze medal on the horizontal bar. Takehiro Kashima won the bronze medal in the pommel horse. Tomita secured the gold medal in the team event for Japan with a spectacular routine on the horizontal bar.
The Japanese team won a bronze medal in the team competition at the world championships in 2004. Tomita took the bronze in the all around. Takehiro Kashima, another member of the team, won gold medals on the horizontal bar and pommel horse. Kashima was also on the silver wining team in Beijing in 2008 and was the 2003 world champion in the pommel horse and the horizontal bar. He retired in 2008 at the age of 28.
Naoyo Tsukahara, the son of Mitsio Tsukahara, was member of the gold medal winning Japanese team in 2004. Naoyo and Mitsio Tsukahara are the first gymnast father and son duo to win gold medals. Naoyo Tsukahara’s mother was also an Olympic gymnast. Naoya was Japan's brightest hope to win a medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. There was a lot of pressure on him and his performances was disappointing.
In 2005, Tomita became the first Japanese gymnast in 30 years to win the all-around title at the world championship. He won the silver in the men’s all around in 2006. The Japanese men’s gymnastic tem won a silver ay the world championship in Stuttgart, Germany in September 2007.
Japan won a silver medal in the team all-around in men’s gymnastics at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 despite having several falls and mishaps. China won the gold medal in team with a total score of 286. 125, ahead of defending Olympic champs Japan with 278.875.
Kohei Uchimura won a silver medal in the individual all-around in men’s gymnastics at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 despite two falls on the pommel horse, giving Japan it first medal in the event in 24 years. The 19-year-old gymnast, regarded as Japan’s rising star n the sport. Tomita, the world champion in 2005, was also in the running for medal until he made a mistake in the rings and came crashing down spectacularly on his head.
Uchimura began training when he was three, he spent a lot of time the trampoline learning to enjoy “the twisting and turning” that are foremost among his strengths in the vault and floor exercise.
Japanese Gymnastics After 2008
In October 2009, 17-year-old Koko Tsurami won a bronze medal in the women’s individual all-around and silver medal in the uneven bars in the at the world gymnastics championship in London. It was only her second international tournament and one of the best performances for a Japanese woman. It was traditionally always the Japanese men that did well.
In October 2009, Kohei Uchimura won the gold medal in the men’s individual all-around at the world gymnastics championship in London. His error free performance gave him a large 2.575 advantage over the silver medalist. At 20 he was Japan’s youngest ever gymnast world champion. The victory was mitigated somewhat by the fact that no Chinese were entered in the event.
Uchimura was named winner of the Japan Grand Prix at the Japan Sports Awards in 2009. After winning in London he said, “I didn’t think I would have a chance of winning a medal at the Olympics. But after winning a silver, I was aware of my position in the world standings and I continued to work hard and thought the gold medal would be reachable here.”
the World Gymnastic championships will be held in Tokyo in October 2011 as was originally planned. There were some concerns the event might to a different location outside of Japan because radiation worries associated with the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Japanese men took the team silver medal in the world gymnastic championship in Rotterdam in 2010. They were in track to win the gold in a fierce battle with the Chinese until Kazuhito Tanaka fell on the horizontal bar in the final rotation. China led by Olympic champion and rising star Chen Yibing, claimed its forth straight team world title. The Chinese coach insisted that China would have won event even if Tanaka’s performance was perfect.
Kohei Uchimura defended his title and won a gold medal in the all-around event at the world gymnastics championship in Rotterdam in 2010. Despite a shoulder injury and competing in 11 events over a 24 hour period, he was consistent and got high scores in all six events. When the meet closed he took home four medals: the individual all-around gold, team silver and bronzes in the floor exercise and parallel bars.
On the eve of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London,Lisa Katayama wrote in the New York Times, “The surest thing at the coming Olympic Games in London---more than the swimmer Michael Phelps, or the sprinter Usain Bolt, or even the American men’s basketball team---may be a 23-year-old Japanese gymnast nicknamed Superman. Four years ago, at the Beijing Games, Kohei Uchimura finished second in the men’s all-around competition, based on his performance in floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar. Since then Uchimura has won three consecutive world championships in the event, something no other male gymnast has done. And he didn’t just edge his way to those golds by hundredths or tenths of a point; he won by overwhelming, multiple-point margins. (In 2009 and 2011, he finished first in four of the six disciplines.) “After he competes in London,” says Tim Daggett, an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics and a commentator for NBC, “I think he’ll have enough titles . . . to say he’s the greatest that ever lived.” [Source: Lisa Katayama, New York Times, July 20, 2012]
AFP reported: “It is not just the titles that count “for the Japanese superstar, but the quality of his performance. He says his goal is to outshine the legendary Vitaly Scherbo, who the 23-year-old believes is the greatest gymnast in history. Belarusian Scherbo won six of eight men's events for the commonwealth of former Soviet republics at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics -- the greatest haul of gold medals won by any gymnast at a single Games. He has also 12 world titles to his name. "It is not the results that matter," said Uchimura. "My goal, indeed, is to perform in a way more beautiful than Scherbo's routines." [Source: AFP, July 22, 2012]
His rivals are unanimous in their admiration of the Japanese maestro, whose iron will means that even when injured he can still manage to outshine his challengers. American Jonathan Horton labelled Uchimura a "monster" after finishing third in Rotterdam, while Boy lamented in Tokyo: "I'm in the wrong era." "At the moment, nobody can beat Uchimura. He's really a special gymnast," the 24-year-old German added. "Everything he does is beautiful and he makes no mistakes. He's really a kind of machine."
Uchimura was named as one of three athletes with the power to lift suffering Japan after the March 2011 tsunami. In 2011, the world gymnastics championships were held in Tokyo," Uchimura said. "After it ended, many coaches and athletes from around the world said how amazing Japan was although it was such a difficult year."
Lisa Katayama wrote in the New York Times, “For Daggett, precision sets Uchimura---his first name Kohei means peaceful flight---apart. “A lot of gymnasts are colorful, aggressive, dynamic---but they don’t have the look that he has,” Daggett says. “His legs are always pencil straight, his toes are always perfectly pointed when he’s doing these crazy, crazy things.” As Steve Butcher, who will be the chief judge for the pommel horse in London, puts it, the expectation is that when Uchimura competes, “you’re going to see something amazing.” (Butcher also notes, “The scary thing for his competitors is that he could continue for one or two Olympic Games after London.”) [Source: Lisa Katayama, New York Times, July 20, 2012]
Kohei Uchimura’s Early Life
Uchimura's father, Kazuhisa, was a competitive gymnast and Kohei began training at his parents' gym, in Nagasaki, when he was just three. Both of his parents are former gymnasts who run a gymnastics club there. Yuki Inamura wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, As a boy, Uchimura, 23, cultivated his outstanding sense of aerial balance by repeatedly studying gymnastics movements, which he then reenacted with a stuffed toy of the Pink Panther cartoon character. "I could recreate moves and skills with the toy and then use them in real performances," he explained. Even while spinning at high speeds in the air, Uchimura is able to clearly see the position of the ceiling, floor and spectator stands. This ability was also the result of practicing on the trampoline at his family's gymnastics club in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture. [Source: Yuki Inamura, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 3, 2012]
"You still have this?" Uchimura's mother, Shuko, said upon finding the 30-centimeter-long Pink Panther toy in his bag. Uchimura had carried the toy as a good luck charm to his matches as a middle school student. An embarrassed Uchimura replied that he always carried the toy to matches, holding the now slightly dirty Pink Panther. An older boy who studied gymnastics at the club run by Uchimura's parents had given it to him when he was a fifth-year primary school student. He then began using the toy to help him visualize and recreate performances when rewatching videos of recorded matches. [Ibid]
Around the same time, Uchimura began sketching gymnastics moves in a notebook, which remains at his parents' house. He illustrated a series of movements for the floor exercise, vault and horizontal bar frame-by-frame. For example, Uchimura painstakingly drew the moves for three forward somersaults, from jumping onto the springboard and touching the vault, to making three forward somersaults with his knees tucked into his chest. The distance to the dismount point and a score of 10.00 were also drawn in the notebook. [Ibid]
Uchimura faithfully carried the toy with him to matches regardless of location. "The toy became the 'black panther' as it was very dirty," Shuko said with a smile. The toy, which is now packed away in a box, was his talisman and carried the history of his gymnastics studies, she added. In the all-around finals Uchimura successfully performed the moves he studied with the toy in front of excited spectators in London. "I thought I was dreaming. I've finally made it," a smiling Uchimura said with his gold medal after the award ceremony. [Ibid]
Uchimura's favorite gymnastics manga "Gamba! Fly high" is about a high school gymnast who grows up with peers he met through training camps and matches. At the climax, Japan's gymnastics team aims to come from behind and win gold in the Olympic Games. Uchimura apparently saw himself in the main character, and prepared for the London Olympics thinking, "I hope to lead the team with my performance."
At a gymnastics school that Uchimura's parents run in Isahaya, Nagasaki Prefecture, a picture of Uchimura and Athens gold medalist Naoya Tsukahara is displayed. It was taken when Uchimura was at primary school. "For Kohei, Naoya-san is a god-like being," Shuko said. Tsukahara played a central role on the Japan team when it won the gold for the first time in 28 years at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Uchimura, a 15-year-old boy at that time, repeatedly watched the recorded performance. Winning the gold medal as a team, as the Japanese team had done in Athens, had become Uchimura's goal. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 28, 2011]
The young Uchimura left his family at 15 to train in Tokyo with his hero, the Athens gold medallist Naoya Tsukahara, before joining the national team in 2007. When Uchimura was in his late teens his acrobatic skills were top notch but his ranking in Japan fell into the 50s because he lacked strength in the events like the rings and pommel horse which require brawn as well as athleticism. He then worked on his strength so that it became on par with his acrobatic skill. It was only then that he blossomed into the great all-around gymnast that he is now. [Ibid]
Kohei Uchimura Today
Lisa Katayama wrote in the New York Times, “Uchimura is on his way to becoming a pop-culture icon. When he revealed during the Beijing Olympics that his precompetition fuel of choice was a chocolate cookie bar called Black Thunder, sales of the snack tripled. [Source: Lisa Katayama, New York Times, July 20, 2012]
Sweet and likable, he’s a welcome departure from both the wimpy, “herbivorous” man-child stereotype of mid-2000s Japan---Uchimura claims he doesn’t like to eat vegetables---and the conventional image of the stoic, emotionally bottled-up Japanese businessman. “He has that calm, analytical demeanor of today’s youth combined with a core mental strength beyond the willpower and grit of times past,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “He’s more like a samurai than a gymnast.” Yet he never forgets to thank his mom at awards ceremonies. She and his father, Kazuhisa Uchimura, both gymnasts, got Kohei started in the sport at age 3 when they opened a training school near their home outside Nagasaki. [Ibid]
For her part, his mother, Shuko Uchimura, insists that nothing has changed for the family, despite the comparisons to warriors and superheroes, despite her son’s appearances in TV commercials and on the exterior of one of Japan Airlines’s s. “He is still just my son, and we have to stay humble,” she says. But she is concerned that too much press coverage about her son’s aversion to vegetables sends the wrong message to his young admirers. “Does he really hate vegetables? That’s a good question. I’m sure he eats them when he needs to. I don’t want kids in Japan to stop eating their veggies just because they think that’s what my son does.”
In November 2012, it was announced that Uchimura had tied the knot. The 23-year-old filed marriage documents on Nov. 11, according to the source. His wife's named was not disclosed. [Ibid]
Kohei Uchimura’s Gymnastics Career
AFP reported: “Many of his record-breaking victories have come in spite of injury, while Uchimura admits that he often lifts his spirits by listening to Jennifer Lopez's hits in competitions. In 2010 in Rotterdam, Uchimura competed and won gold despite a shoulder injury. In 2011 in Tokyo, the 160-centimetre gymnast battled a leg injury to win by a record margin of 3.101 points ahead of Germany's Philipp Boy. Uchimura's first world title win was in 2009 in London. [Ibid]
In October 2011, UPI reported: “Uchimura won this third consecutive all-around championship at the World Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo. Uchimura, 22, placed first or tied for first in four of six categories in becoming the first male gymnast to win three all-around titles. He had the second-best scores in the vault and horizontal bar. He totaled 93.631 points, easily outdistancing German Philipp Boy, who had 90.530 in taking the silver medal. Japan's Koji Yamamuro was third at 90.255. [Source: UPI, October 14, 2011]
By the time the competition got to the vault -- the competition's fourth apparatus -- Uchimura had a substantial lead. He opened the all-around with a competition-best 15.566 in the floor exercise and was scored at 15.400 in the pommel horse, tying French gymnast Cyril Tommasone for the top score in the event. Uchimura was first in the rings at 15.166. Only Yamamuro also topped 15 on the apparatus. Romania's Flavius Koczi, at 16.433, had the top vault score, with Uchimura second at 16.233. Uchimura was tops in the parallel bars at 15.566 and Boy's 16.066 was the only score better than Uchimura (15.700) in the horizontal bar. [Ibid]
AFP reported: “Uchimura won the floor exercise for his first-ever individual apparatus title at the world gymnastics championships in Tokyo. He collected 15.633 points with China's Olympic floor exercise champion Zou Kai second on 15.500. Brazil's Diego Hypolito and Alexander Shatilov of Israel shared third spot with 15.466 each. Uchimura, who won an unprecedented third straight all-around title, initially marked 15.433 but his side protested the score as only two of three twists he made in a tumbling move were counted. The jury accepted the protest and upgraded his difficulty score from 6.5 to 6.7. [Source: AFP, October 15, 2011]
Uchimura Before the 2012 Olympics
Before the 2012 Olympics in London, AFP reported: “Uchimura seeks to become the ultimate star. He has already made history but the Japanese star is still searching for the ultimate performance as he bids to stake his claim to being the world's greatest gymnast at the Olympics. Since taking all-around silver at the 2008 Beijing Games, Uchimura has been undefeated, in 2011 becoming the first man to win three consecutive world all-around titles, and the Olympic gold is now within reach. [Source: AFP, July 22, 2012]
Since Beijing, when he won all-around and team silver, Uchimura has dominated men's gymnastics. As well as his three world all-around titles, he has won six other world medals, including gold on the floor. His style combines difficulty, strength and elegance and he excels on all apparatus to the point of being able to challenge even the specialists, finishing first in four of the six disciplines in 2009 and 2011. [Ibid]
His rivals can perhaps take heart from the fact that Uchimura insists his only dream in London is to win team gold for Japan and topple China, the reigning Olympic champions and five-time world champions. "I am only thinking about the gold medal in the team event," he said. "Since the Beijing Olympics, we have only managed silver. I don't want to feel the same disappointment any more."
In the team competition at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2011, Japanese errors handed the gold to China's men. The BBC reported: “Two dramatic falls from the high bar in the closing stages of the men's team final saw Japan hand gold to China at the World Gymnastics in Tokyo. Japanese superstar Kohei Uchimura followed Yusuke Tanaka in falling as the pressure told. However, Uchimura did enough to earn silver for Japan ahead of the United States - by one-hundredth of a mark. [Source: BBC October 12 2011]
China's men have now won nine of the last 10 team world titles since the once-dominant Soviet Union disbanded. But this win - a record-equalling fifth straight success - looked in more doubt than usual as the hosts rose to the challenge inside the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, the venue in which Japan won the men's Olympic title at the 1964 Olympics. Victory at their home Games crowned a decade of dominance for Japanese men's gymnastics in the 1960s, making legends of names like Yukio Endo and Takashi Ono. [Ibid]
By the time Uchimura stepped up to the bar for Japan's last routine of the night, Tanaka's fall had ensured gold for China after an evening of high drama. That Uchimura should have followed Tanaka off the bar, a specialist piece of his, drew shocked gasps in the auditorium. The 22-year-old still managed to snatch an element of victory from the jaws of this defeat, sparkling in the remainder of his routine to post a score which rescued silver for Japan by the narrowest of margins. China won with a score of 275.161, ahead of Japan's 273.093 and America's 273.083. [Ibid]
Uchimura Wins the All-Around Gold at the 2012 Olympics
Japan’s favorite Kohei Uchimura won the gold medal in the men’s all-around event in gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics in London. Juliet Macur wrote in the New York Times, “Kohei Uchimura did not fool anyone by qualifying in ninth place--- a few days before. “His competitors knew that he would be the one to beat in the final, and they were right. Uchimura, the three-time world champion from Japan, took the lead halfway through the competition---then never let it go. He finished his night on the floor exercise, twisting through the air so quickly during his tumbling passes that he was nothing but a blur. When he was done and his feet finally hit the ground, he walked off with a smile and a wave to the crowd, looking relieved that the contest was over. [Source: Juliet Macur, New York Times, August 1, 2012]
Not long after, the gold medal was in his hands and he examined it, as if to make sure he was not dreaming. Uchimura won with a score of 92.690 points, solidifying himself as one of the best gymnasts in history. Marcel Nguyen of Germany won the silver medal, with 91.031 points. Danell Leyva, who came to the United States from Cuba as a toddler, won the bronze, with 90.698 points.
Uchimura settled for the silver medal in the men's floor. Some had picked him to win the gold. Kyodo news reported: “Uchimura, who won the floor title at last year's world championships, set out to avenge his fifth-place finish at the Beijing Games in the event four years ago with acrobatics performed cleanly throughout for 15.800 points. But China's Zou Kai, the top qualifier for the floor final, defended his title with a solid routine that looked virtually error-free which earned him 15.933. Denis Ablyazin of Russia got the bronze with 15.800---the same score as Uchimura's but ranked lower based on execution points. [Source: Kyodo, August 5, 2012]
Uchimura, the 23-year-old three-time all-around world champion, who qualified for the final with the second best score, was the first to perform in the floor final at North Greenwich Arena and had to wait for seven rivals to carry out their routines. His execution score of 9.100 was the highest among the eight finalists in the first event held on the opening day of apparatus finals in London. Scores from the qualifying are not carried over to the finals in the gymnastics competition. [Ibid]
Uchimura, was given a special award at the Japan Grand Prix at the 62nd Japan Sports Awards. Established by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the awards are given every year to the most prominent athletes and teams in the world of sports. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 15, 2012]
Japan Team Wins Silver in Men's Gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics
In a dramatic and controversial fashion, the Japanese men’s gymnastics team won a silver medal in the team event at the 2012 Olympics in London. Takeshi Masuda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Japan won a silver medal in the men's gymnastics team final after a protest over Kohei Uchimura's score lifted Japan from fourth place. Judges did not give sufficient credit to Uchimura's shaky dismount from the pommel horse. But after a video review, his score was revised upward by 0.7 point to 14.166, allowing the Japanese team to grab its second straight silver following its second-place finish at Beijing in 2008. [Source: Takeshi Masuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 1, 2012]
Stone-faced Uchimura was speechless when he saw the scoreboard. In contrast, the Chinese team celebrated its gold medal. China secured gold for the second consecutive time, while Britain won bronze, its first team medal in men's gymnastics since the 1912 Stockholm Games. The score revision knocked Ukraine out of third place. [Ibid]
Uchimura reportedly put an image of a silver medal on his mobile phone's standby screen on January. 1. He did this so he would not forget that Japan failed to win the team gold in last year's World Championships. Japan lost to China in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the 2010 and 2011 World Championships. Uchimura competed in each competition. Although Uchimura's win in the individual all-around gymnastics at the World Championships last year made him the first person to win the competition three consecutive times, he said, "I don't have a feeling of achievement." Every time he saw the photo of the silver medal on his white mobile phone, it renewed his vow to avenge the defeats, he said. [Ibid]
He developed a desire to win an Olympic team gold after watching the Japanese team win at the Athens Olympics as a first-year high school student. Watching the event on TV in Tokyo, Uchimura said he was thrilled and had goose bumps when he saw Hiroyuki Tomita's solid finish on the high bar, which led to the team victory. Since then, he repeatedly said, "I want a team gold medal more than an individual gold."
"Honestly speaking, second place doesn't feel so different from fourth [as we failed to win gold]," said Kohei Uchimura after descending the podium where he took a moment to regard his silver medal. His words expressed his vexation. [Source: Yuki Inamura, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 1, 2012]
Koji Yamamuro, his teammate, was injured during a performance and left the competition before Uchimura's last performance on the pommel horse. When Yamamuro came back from medical treatment, Uchimura assembled all the members for fist-on-fist greeting. It was like his prayer for winning gold would be gained by the efforts of each member.Uchimura always focused his mind on winning the gold medal as a team. [Ibid]
"Which do you honestly want more, gold as a team or as an individual?" His mother Shuko asked him this spring. Everyone knows that he is the only one of the current five national team members who has consistently been a member of Japan's team since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although he could have focused on training for individual events in the London Games, Uchimura insisted on aiming for the gold medal as a team on every occasion. "Gold as a team, of course," he promptly answered. "A medal for an individual event is just my medal. But a medal won as a team is the result of our collective effort."
As Japan's ace, Uchimura performed on all six apparatuses in the men's gymnastics team events, even though it could physically affect his performance in individual all-round events. However, he could not make his dream come true. With his mouth open and looking stunned, Uchimura stared at the scoreboard, which showed Japan's ranking as fourth. While the Japanese team was raised from fourth to second place after judges revised Uchimura's score over complaints from the Japanese side, Uchimura looked grim in contrast to excited Japanese supporters in the stands. After the final, Uchimura said, "I did my best. I'll rest up to perform in individual all-round and individual events."
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated January 2013